Q: I’m a mid-level manager who recently joined a highly competitive business, and the office politics are something I’ve never experienced before. Any advice to help navigate this new landscape without getting caught in the middle?

A: Although office politics can be tricky to navigate, they are a part of every organization and can’t be avoided. That said, if you take the time to understand your current political landscape but avoid taking sides, you might find it advantageous in building relationships with colleagues. Most importantly, you need to maintain a positive attitude and not allow this “office talk” to affect your work. Here are a few tips to stay out of the line of fire:

Stay grounded but empathetic: Sometimes it’s hard to read your audience especially after a Zoom call, and it might behoove you to follow up after a meeting to ask more questions. Showing respect is the key to understanding others and earning their respect and building your reputation as someone with integrity who can be trusted on either side of the aisle.

Be authentic: Mean what you say, follow up on your commitments and be cautious of gauging your decisions on others’ opinions—political or otherwise. It takes time to know who’s who and if they are playing politics or honestly just trying to do their job. Don’t pre-judge. Maintain your authenticity as it’s your biggest asset and North Star.

Listen: Be an active listener. This will help you playback what you hear to help you better understand what was said in a meeting or conversation to avoid misreading someone’s intentions let alone their tone of voice.

Ask thoughtful questions: Instead of expressing your opinion, ask questions to understand where a person is coming from. If you think that person continues to steer off course, find a direct source to clear up any misunderstanding but, again, with carefully thought-out questions without sounding accusatory.

Assume positive intent: From my experience, people stay the same, whether it’s in the office or virtually. Nonetheless, if you can assume they have positive intentions, it’s possible to come to a quick resolution or compromise resulting in a win-win situation.

Learning how to deal with differences and work together is one of the crucial skills every professional needs to learn and to succeed—especially in a new position. If you feel you need a heavier assist in understanding your office politics, find someone you admire in the company to take you under her or his wing to help you understand how to deal with your new ecosystem.

A final word of caution: With holiday office parties in full swing, stay on your guard. Alcohol is not a good mix should a conversation turn political. Stick with a soft drink, get to know your colleagues by asking questions, and remember, the office party may be after hours, but you’re still on the job. Cheers!

Joan Lee Berkman is a marketing and public relations consultant. if you have a question for Joan, send it to business@townandstyle.com.